HSE urges care during Christmas

HSE urges care during Christmas

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The Department of Public Health Mid-West is advising people in Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary that the next few weeks are critical in preventing spread of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant.

The Omicron variant is spreading rapidly in different countries and we do not know yet what this wave will be like for us in the Mid-West. Because it will be some time before we know for certain, we recommend that everyone acts with caution over the coming weeks. We should prepare for the worst and hope for the best. We would advise people to take the following actions;

People who have cold symptoms, no matter how mild, should isolate, and arrange a PCR test. You may wish to take an antigen test while waiting for this appointment, but if the antigen test is negative, you must still isolate and wait for the results of the PCR test. If your PCR test is positive you will be given advice by contact tracing, if your result is negative, you should still stay at home until you are well.

People who test positive for COVID-19 in the coming days may be advised to restrict their movements and to self-isolate for ten days which may include Christmas Day.  We can individually and collectively reduce this risk by reducing the number of people that we meet.

We also strongly urge all eligible people to avail of their booster COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. These can be accessed free of charge in vaccination centres and participating pharmacies.

This will offer you significant protection against infection, illness, and serious outcomes over the winter period. If available, we encourage people to avail of the flu vaccine which can be safely administered on the same day.

We also encourage people to wear masks in indoor setting, sanitise hands after touching shared surfaces and ensure indoor areas are well-ventilated.

Public Health Mid-West has recorded 4,042 COVID-19 cases across the region over the past 14 days, including 1,799 cases in Limerick, 1,356 cases in Clare, and 886 cases in North Tipperary, as of December 12, 2021.

Our department is managing and monitoring 40 COVID-19 situations in key vulnerable settings, such as nursing homes, long-term care facilities, day care services, disability services, special education needs facilities, and among vulnerable populations in the community. The Public Health team is also closely monitoring the emergence of the Omicron B.1.1.529 variant, which has been detected in Ireland.

Due to the high level of cases in the community, there will be fewer recordings of outbreaks and interventions in other settings.

While the daily COVID-19 data is stabilising at present, Public Health Mid-West can expect to see an increase in cases over the coming weeks linked to Christmas celebrations. However, the reduction of social activity can limit this risk and the extra pressure on the health service.

Dr Marie Casey, Specialist in Public Health Medicine, said: “Christmas will be extra special for loved ones who are reuniting after such a challenging year. We want people to enjoy this festive season but the current reality is that COVID-19 is widespread in the community, and for every social encounter we have, we increase our risk. However, we can reduce that by planning how we socialise and act over the coming days, so we can have a safer Christmas. If you are unwell please isolate and get PCR tested.

“If you have not got your first vaccine dose, it is never too late to start now. If you are eligible for a booster, go to your nearest walk-in clinic to assure yourself of greater protections against this disease this winter.”

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